14 Replies Latest reply: Nov 14, 2007 11:33 AM by Michael S. Allen
Jonathan Gilbert Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
WHEN will Apple finally get around to adding an equivalent thing to Windows' "Add/Remove Programs" (XP) aka "Programs and Features" (Vista) Control Panel???

I am looking to uninstall some software from my computer. But only God knows where the installer has stashed files all over my drive! I don't want to leave behind a single preferences file or extension.

Is there some easy way in Mac to do this? In Windows you just go to "Add/Remove Program" and you can uninstall every last shred or trace of that software. But in the Mac... there's about four or five major places to look, but how can you know if it installed something in a hidden directory in the Unix directories somewhere??

macbook pro 2.4 ghz LED, 4GB, 160GB, Mac OS X (10.4.10), also own: plus, se, se/30, cc, iici, iifx, bondi imac, 9600, g3 dt, tibook 550
  • vcolombo Level 1 Level 1 (35 points)
    I'd recommend you install one of the following programs:

    AppTrap (free) http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/25323/apptrap
    AppZapper ($12.95) http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/20306/appzapper
    Hazel ($21.95) http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/22694/hazel

    I personally use AppZapper but I started using it before I discovered the free utility AppTrap. With AppZapper you drag the application you want to remove to AppZapper and it finds all associated files. AppTrap and Hazel both run in the background somehow and automatically ask if you want to delete the associated files when you drag an application to the trash. On top of application deletion Hazel also has some nice file automation functions. Both Hazel and AppZapper offer demos, but if all you want is a more thorough method of removing applications AppTrap should fit your needs.


    Message was edited by: vcolombo
  • drdocument Level 4 Level 4 (3,010 points)
    In my opinion this feature is not needed in OS X due to the fundamentally different relationship between applications and the system compared with Windows, by design.

    There are two types of applications for Mac: those that come with an uninstaller and and those that do not. The former install extensions or other things that might do something unexpected (but probably not harmful) if the parent application is not found, hence the need for an uninstaller. The latter simply use built-in system resources and usually install nothing additional other than a preferences (plist) file, a small text file that will does nothing except use a few KB of disk space.

    To uninstall the former, simply run the uninstaller. If there's a problem (rare), developers of these applications have manual uninstall instructions and their installers almost always include a report of "what was installed where."

    To uninstall the latter, simply drag the application to the Trash. All that will remain is perhaps a small text-only plist file which will do nothing, and can be easily deleted manually if you wish, in .../Library/Preferences, named something like "com.[developer].[app name].plist".

    For Apple to develop a universal uninstaller would require a Microsoft-like "nanny state" micromanagement of every individual application out there which would stifle development of new software and divert OS programming resources from more important things like stability, usability and security.

    I'm happy to do my part to keep OS X as great as it is, and if that means having to use a developer's uninstaller or drag an app to the trash, I can do that.

    No need to worry: anything left after uninstalling by either method is of no consequence.
  • Mr.Lobotomy Level 4 Level 4 (1,290 points)
    Amen. Apple's modular design of Mac OS is beautiful in that applications are self-contained. There's no idiotic registry or anything like that cluttering things up and causing interference between applications or slowing things down. So dragging an application to the trash is usually sufficient to completely uninstall an application. If you want to be completely pedantic (modulo extensions) you can also check if the folders /Library/<Application Name>, /Library/Preferences/<Application Name>, ~/Library/Preferences/<Application Name> and/or ~/Library/<Application Name> exist, (where ~/ is your home directory) and, if so, delete them too.
  • The hatter Level 9 Level 9 (60,915 points)
    I would like to take the best of both.

    Cache files and folders, prefs, maybe should have more than "use Spotlight to find all the pieces" as uninstall and reinstall of Safari with new version doesn't do the trick.

    My guess is a lot of people don't know all the contents of their home library, let alone system and top library.

    I thought I'd find why people detest Windows. Never used it but have to say Vista is excellent and no issue. And a lot of good features and tools. And documentation to go along with them.
  • Jonathan Gilbert Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    drdocument, I respectfully, completely disagree with you.

    The average Mac user has no clue as to what the Library folder is for. Nor would they be able to sort through it all to find the five locations where the tons of crap might be stored.

    Lets take several examples. Here's some programs that I have installed that are quite typical of Mac users:

    Garage Band
    Adobe CS3
    Microsoft Office

    NONE of these programs can be deleted easily. Garbage Band stores its garbage in numerous unintuitive places:

    /Library/Application Support/Garage Band/

    Further, it's not always clear whether the files you are deleting are used by just one application, or multiple applications from that same company (or even other companies). I often feel unsure if I'm deleting something from /Library/Audio/Plug-ins or /Library/Application Support/Adobe because... is it used only by Photoshop? What if I just wanted to uninstall InDesign and I no longer have the original install disk because, lets say, I sold it?

    It should not fall upon the user to play sleuth and hunt down the myriad places that these apps store things on the drive!!!

    There should be an EASY Control Panel in System Preferences that lets you uninstall any program off your drive. I seriously don't think that this would hamper application development or make the system run slower or be kludgy. Besides, when has Apple ever taken the path of making things harder on users because they were afraid by making it easier, it would slow down the computer???

    If anything the opposite has always been true.

    Even a shareware app that just has one application file and no other files on the drive should be able to be uninstalled with confidence by a control panel. Since, how do you KNOW it didn't put another file somewhere, even a preferences file? God only knows how many preferences files are on my drive that I don't need because they never got erased when I uninstalled the app. It would take me days to comb through that mess, especially since the arcane and unintuitive preference file naming scheme used by OS X does not use plain english but rather uses ridiculous un-Mac-like names like "com.unsanity.hoseyoursystem.preference"... whatever happened to "Microsoft Word Preferences" and "Adobe Photoshop Preferences" -- nice Mac-like filenames?!?!??!

    I'm tired of the PC-ization of the Mac, the further and further making it more complicated, having apps store more crap in more different places. Having multiple Library folders is just a nightmare from an ease-of-use standpoint, though I know it's necessary for a multi-user OS. But there ought to be a way to have a "single-user" mode that would eliminate the Users directory all together and just store everything at the root level of the HD, rather than having all my documents buried 10 levels deep into the drive.

    Anyway the point is you are wrong. The way it is set up makes it harder on users -- even seasoned users like me -- when we want to cleanly uninstall an application with confidence. It means tons of extra time sifting through the labrynthine unix crap. I hate it! Where has "user friendly" gone??

    Besides I would never trust a third-party shareware program to uninstall things. How would i know that it knew what to do? Plus it adds extra expense to the OS, for a feature that has been standard on Windows for what seems like 10 years!

    When will we finally get this feature? 2020?
  • Jimplewis Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    I hope to goodness Apple never creates a windows-type "Add/Remove Programs" function. In my view, the wonderful things about the Mac OS X is ALL the ways it's NOT windows. I think the most wonderful difference is the Mac OS does not have the abomination of a "registry", with all the headache it brings.

    If I want to get rid of an application I drag it to the trash, or do a UNIX rm at the terminal.

    I guess there could be some fragments of the application left in various places. I just don't worry about that. After 15 years of dealing with windows and PC's, and still dealing with PC's at work, I am delighted to at last be using Macs. Just like our Sun UNIX boxes at work, the Mac seems straight forward and clear.

    Just my two cents worth.

  • Jonathan Gilbert Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    You don't have to have a "registry" to achieve what I'm talking about.

    All you would need is that programs, when they install, would leave a .pkg file in the "Receipts" folder (which, gasp, most of them already do!!) that lists all the files they install on your drive.

    90% of what's necessary for a feature like this to be implemented is already present in Mac OS X -- as evidenced by the existence of simple shareware apps that do it for you.

    I'm just saying that Apple should build this feature into the OS itself, and ask application developers to be responsible about their apps playing nice with listing the files they install on your drive in the .pkg file in the Receipts folder. That would not be too much to ask!

    And I'm sorry that you don't care if 5GB of files are still left on your drive after just dragging the app to the trash (like there would be in the case of Garbage Band).

    But some people, like me, actually do care if there is a bunch of useless crap using up valuable space on their drives!
  • Mr.Lobotomy Level 4 Level 4 (1,290 points)
    But most of the time, Wind'oh!s Add/Remove programs only pretends to delete the files and registry keys associated with the application. At a minimum it often leaves preferences behind just in case you decide to reinstall the program. So it would seem that what you like is an OS which pretends to clean things up, but just makes a muck out of things because the shared registry leads to interference between applications. What you don't like is an honest OS.

    For example, have you ever taken a look at C:\Windows\Application Data\? Oh right, Windows hides that directory by default...
  • Jonathan Gilbert Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    Hey, I'm not saying that it should be done exactly like in Windows.

    It should be done the Mac way.

    For example, the OS could automatically ask you when you drag the app to the trash if you want to delete all associated files such as preferences, application support, etc. and give them in a check-down list, with the total KB of each item. It could be done in a way that was much more elegant than Winblows.

    I'm just saying the way it is now, even Windows' way of doing it is much easier than on a Mac. Since with Windows I can install some software, try it out, if I don't like it, easily uninstall it without wondering if there's weird files remaining to litter my drive. Having checked my Vista partition... it does not seem as though the stuff I uninstalled yesterday left any traces of it.

    But the point is just how to improve the Mac and make it easier to use.
  • drdocument Level 4 Level 4 (3,010 points)
    Perhaps Apple will make us both happy and snap up one of those shareware uninstallers and incorporate it into Mac OS. In the meantime, though, I will enjoy Leopard as is.
  • nerowolfe Level 6 Level 6 (13,065 points)
    It would be far better if Apple required all software apps to be in a single folder and any components that have to be elsewhere to simply use a symbolic link.
    Then when the app folder is trashed, poof! everything goes.
    No need for a program to uninstall anything. This is Unix - symbolic links are the best solution.
  • Mr.Lobotomy Level 4 Level 4 (1,290 points)
    I have to disagree. The symbolic link solution won't work with preference files, cache files, and actual documents which may be created by the user who does not necessarily have write permission in the /Applications directory. And besides, maybe I don't WANT my preferences deleted just because I'm uninstalling prior to upgrading.

    And besides, trashing the app folder won't delete the symbolic links which are pointing from elsewhere; it will simply break those symbolic links. I don't think an idiom which ensures the presence of a whole slew of broken symbolic links is very good.
  • Jimplewis Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Makes sense. I have looked at Hazel and App Tap but have not installed either of them. I sure would not want to have to use an "Install" utility whenever I wanted to install an app, but a way to clean off all the objects used by an application would be nice.
  • Michael S. Allen Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    You're joking, right?
    You actually believe that Add/Remove gets rid of "every last trace" of installed software?
    Try it sometime, then check the registry, the system32 directory, and God forbid there were any open calls at the time you tried to remove it because then its folder in Program Files will still be there as well as Application Data and Local Settings\Application Data.
    Huh, there's five places there. Maybe you were confused?

    Drop the program in question into the trash. Empty. Done.
    Of course, you might find .plist files laying around, but those are like 1K....